Story by: Victor Lewis, WCHL
This week’s Hometown Hero, Leah Tilden, is a Level II EMS instructor and UNC alumnus with a degree in psychology and a graduate certificate in community preparedness/disaster management.
“It’s an exciting time in EMS,” said Tilden. “Because community paramedicine is becoming a really big thing. We’ve realized that EMS providers shouldn’t just be taking people to the emergency room, they should be helping them mitigate the reasons that cause them to end up in the emergency room.”
Tilden teaches at Durham Technical Community College’s Orange County Campus, leading classes and practical exercises with future EMTs.
“I am continuing education coordinator for [Durham Tech’s] EMS program,” said Tilden. “So I help manage all of the initial provider EMT paramedic classes, continuing education for local fire departments, and American Heart Association CPR and first aid classes.”
Tilden has extensive experience in the field of emergency medicine and crisis relief, but her career began by taking a chance on a course during her time as a student at UNC.
“I thought I was originally going to go into psychology and took the EMT class for fun. I fell in love with EMS and kind of just kept pursing that direction … I ended up getting my Master’s in public health from East Carolina”
After discovering her passion for EMS work, Tilden took to working locally to gain experience and insight.
“I started about 16 or 17 years ago with South Orange Rescue Squad out of Carrboro,” said Tilden. “An all-volunteer organization, we do everything from EMS service in the local area, water rescue, confined spaces, high angle … I really got my start in water rescue. It’s what I’ve always really loved most.”
Tilden’s commitment to serving the community doesn’t end in crisis situations and ambulances, however. According to Roxie Edwards, a co-worker at Durham Tech, Tilden “was the reason we far exceeded donations for the Food Bank,” referring to donations to Durham Tech’s “Campus Harvest” pantry.
“My family has always been really big into volunteering and giving back to our community, as long as I can remember,” said Tilden. “People with food insecurities has been what’s called to me. I give to my local pantry and Durham Tech has a pantry that supports our students, so I help organize a couple months a year where the EMS program actually sponsors Durham Tech’s food pantry specifically.”
Working within any given community helps to forge strong bonds with those living there, but work that contributes to the overall good of the whole inevitably makes those ties bind even tighter. Work like teaching, or providing food and medicine.
“Leah strives to make sure that our EMS students receive the best teaching we have to offer,” said Edwards. “She is always there, willing to help anyone accomplish their goals.”
Luckily for Leah, and for the rest of us, she finds joy in what she does.
“I love what I do and not everybody gets to say that,” said Tilden. “I started thinking I was going to go one way in my career and end up an EMS, which I really loved, and then that turned into a teaching career. There’s nothing better than getting to teach what you love, so I get to help bring all these new EMTs and paramedics into our community.”